• 50 Years - A Million Thanks
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FOCUS ON: INDONESIA LIVING DANGEROUSLY THE NEW DEMOCRACY ABOUT THE FILM RESOURCES EDUCATION
The New Democracy


Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia's new president, recently promised America her country's "full support in the war on terrorism," after the U.S. State Department named Indonesia, along with Malaysia and the Philippines, as "potential Al Qaeda hubs."

The tragic events of September 11th have placed her in a difficult position. She has to balance her efforts to satisfy the West's demand for security against a rising tide of Islamic militancy sweeping through her predominantly Muslim nation.
Video Clip
Dr. Sumiyarsi

Dr. Sumiyarsi's story of being arrested as a PKI suspect.



Her fragile coalition government includes several Islamic parties that have been critical of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and increasingly suspicious of U.S. efforts to extend the battle into Southeast Asia. She must also contend with the rise of militant groups like Laskar Jihad (Holy War Militia), a fundamentalist Islamic militia formed in 2000, that claims to have a standing army of 10,000 fighters throughout the nation and has been linked to forced religious conversions and the recent killing of more than 5,000 Christians in the Maluccas Islands.

A variety of long-running insurgent movements also threatens the nation with fragmentation. East Timor's recent bid for independence from Indonesia, which occupied the territory in 1975, has revitalized many of these movements.

The majority of people in East Timor voted for autonomy from Indonesia in a UN-sponsored referendum on August 30, 1999. This immediately provoked a bloody backlash from militia groups supported by the Indonesian military. The United Nations stemmed the violence by landing 3,000 peacekeeping troops three weeks later, but not before more than 1,000 people died, the main cities were looted, and hundreds of thousands of people became refugees.

These events set off a wave of protests, sectarian violence, and demands for independence, particularly in the provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya, which have a long history of struggling for autonomy. The military has been particularly brutal in suppressing these movements. [See "Dictatorship to Democracy."]

Megawati, shortly after taking office, publicly apologized to these provinces for human rights violations committed by the military in its efforts to battle rebel groups. She also called on them to remain part of the country. Despite her appeal, the rebel groups continue to battle the military and the body count continues to escalate. These upheavals have produced over 700,000 internal refugees, who further destabilize the country.

These events are worrying. "A fragmented Indonesia feeds fundamentalism, narrow regionalism and movements ... and is very unstable and very dangerous," warned James Kelly, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, during his Senate confirmation hearing last year.

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Photo of the agrarian people of Indonesia
Photo of the agrarian people of Indonesia

The agrarian people of Indonesia today express little certainty about the future of the nation.
Slide Show Photo Indonesian People
See more photos of Indonesia.
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"The majority of people in East Timor voted for autonomy from Indonesia in a UN-sponsored referendum on August 30, 1999. This immediately provoked a bloody backlash from militia groups supported by the Indonesian military."
Video Clip Photo of a Soldier

Dr. Sumiyarsi talks about the mob and the fire that destroyed her home.

Photo of Indonesia's bustling streets

Today, the bustling streets of Indonesia's major cities do not reflect the tragedies the country has faced at the hands of the Suharto dictatorship.


© 2002 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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